Friday, 5 October 2012

Tori Amos - Gold Dust - Royal Albert Hall

Tori Amos chased the muse around the Royal Albert Hall when she performed with the Dutch Metropole Orchestra as part of her Gold Dust tour this October. Dressed in an elegant green floral suit and black rimmed glasses, Tori evoked the woman behind the image of her 2003 album “Tales of a Librarian” when she played a selection of songs from her impressive twenty year repertoire to an orchestral accompaniment arranged by John Philip Shenale. The black rimmed glasses only came off when the muse turned around and chased her back, inspiring an improvisation – She Calls My Name – in between “Snow Cherries from France” and “Ribbons Undone” during the first half of the evening. Tori’s 12-year-old daughter, Tash, and her friends gave a shout out from one of the loggia boxes when Tori called to her down the mic, saying she hoped Tash would use discretion with her candy and give her best at school in the morning. Assuming Tori’s husband, sound engineer Mark Hawley, was among the crew operating the sound deck, it felt like Tori was very much at home in the grand London venue after overcoming a racing heart at the beginning of her opening number, “Flying Dutchman”. Tori left the stage to a standing ovation in a show that peaked with highlights, “Hey Jupiter”, “Programmable Soda”, “Leather” and “Precious Things”. Her art has been an inspiration to so many people over the past twenty years and the people who love what she does look forward to what’s still to come.

Link to Snow Cherries From France.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Milo and The Restart Button

Back from a pre-record of the Review Show for Premier Radio with the Original Miss B. After complaining from one show to the next about self-help books, Premier very kindly spared me this time. Instead, we were treated to a pre-teen book with a compelling narrative voice: “Milo And The Restart Button” by Alan Silberberg, and an autobiography by East End champion powerlifter Arthur White who crossed the legal line into drugs, crime and violence: “The Power and The Glory” (co-written with Martin Saunders). Milo had me hooked from page one (this from page one: “I love Summer Goodman but she barely knows I exist, which I’m pretty okay with because when you love someone, they don’t have to do anything – and Summer does nothing, so I think it’s all going to work out great”), and "The Power and the Glory" opened with a gripping preface that led into a fascinating story about East End culture and masculinity.

We also reviewed an album: “Go” by Rachel Chan. It’s the kind of album that folks on a Chick fil-A date night might have playing in the background. Here’s a sample.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Lydia Davis: What She Knew

I’ve been thinking about identity and the internalised object following the PsyLitFilm symposium at Sussex University on Monday. I’ve been wondering, in particular, about a Lydia Davis vignette used to illustrate a loss of perception between the interior and the exterior in a paper given by Professor Josh Cohen on Bion and Laplanche and externalisation in literature and psychoanalysis. Here is the vignette:

What She Knew

People did not know what she knew, that she was not really a woman but a man, often a fat man, but more often, probably, an old man. The fact that she was an old man made it hard for her to be a young woman. It was hard for her to talk to a young man, for instance, though the young man was clearly interested in her. She had to ask herself, Why is this young man flirting with this old man?

It’s only four sentences – a wisp of smoke, maybe – but there’s so much happening that it seems a shame to stop at using it to make one point about a problematic situation: a young woman who has not been able to communicate all of herself to a young man and the resulting breakdown between a “perfect” interior and an “imperfect” exterior. It’s amusing for a start. If the young woman is conscious of her external identity and if she is so acutely aware of the object she has internalised that she can describe his characteristics, then it is not really necessary for her to ask herself why the young man is interested in her, except to draw on irony when he flirts with her. There is also a suggestion that the internalised object is a changeable entity. That the object is “often a fat man” tells us that sometimes he is not – he might be a thin man or a muscular man, or even a woman. That he is “more often, probably, an old man” implies that he might be a young man, or, perhaps, a young or old woman during the times when he is “more often, probably” not an old man. The old, fat man isn’t therefore a prisoner of the young woman, or vice versa, if the object shifts and changes – perhaps as quickly as it takes to follow the meaning of the sentences. And what about the internalised object of the young man? Maybe it’s an old woman? Or a young woman? Or maybe not. Maybe the young man is as he appears. Maybe he is even aware of the young woman’s internalised object when he flirts with her. Maybe she knows he knows this too and this is why she finds it difficult to talk to him.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Review: Jamie Grace, Forbidden and Self-Help

Recorded another Premier Review show today due to be aired on 13 March at 4pm. Jules Rendell and I reviewed two (awful) books: ‘Forbidden’ – a “lipstick confession” novel based on the story of David and Bathsheba – and ‘God Give Me Victory Over Anger’ – a “self-help” book steeped in demonic possession and Biblical literalism, and Jamie Grace’s album ‘One Song At A Time’, which was excellent (mix of R&B, folk, pop, acoustic). The last track on her album was particularly strong.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Nick Cohen's Attack on Jonathan Gledhill and Alan Beith

Another article by Nick Cohen inspiring a blogpost - this time in the Spectator. Here’s how it starts:

If you want to hear a BBC discussion going hopelessly wrong, listen to the ‘debate’ between the Bishop of Lichfield, Jonathan Gledhill (brother of the better-known Ruth) and Alan Beith on the Today programme this morning. Radio 4 meant it to be about the established church, and set the Anglican bishop against the Methodist Beith.

Did they? Methodists and Anglicans have been in Covenant since 2003. They are not arch-enemies out to slay one another. They work together ecumenically, share local churches together and support each other on a number of social issues. Also, Ruth Gledhill is not related to Jonathan Gledhill - an error that Ruth has pointed out on Twitter.

But a freemasonry of the faithful took over, and ‘balance’ went out of the window. Conformist and non-conformist united against their common enemy, ‘militant secularism’. Not just Anglicans and Methodists, Beith assured us, but Sikhs, Jews, Muslims and Hindus were at one in their fear of the secularist menace.

“Freemasonry”? An unfortunate term in this context. The first definition of freemasonry in the Oxford English Dictionary reads: “The system and institutions of the Freemasons.” Back in 1985 the Methodist Conference voted that Freemasonry competed with Christian beliefs. Cohen, however, would have meant the second definition of this term: “Instinctive sympathy or fellow feeling between people.” A less ambiguous choice of words would have been “a shared perspective”. The jumbled phrases continue through the paragraph with Cohen suggesting that Sir Beith says that Anglicans, Methodists, Sikhs, Jews, Muslims and Hindus are in “fear of the secularist menace”. He didn't say anything like this. In fact, Sir Beith stands up for the views of atheists, some of whom would agree with Mary Ann Sieghart's piece in the Independent this week.

‘It is bad enough having to put up with the platitudinous propaganda of Thought for the Day,’ I thought, ‘but this is too much.’

Thought for the Day takes up roughly one minute of scheduling time. It’s topical, features participants of different faiths and, I think, would be an even better slot if it featured humanists too. Why didn’t Cohen lay into the Sunday Programme, which lasts 45 minutes every week? Maybe he likes the Sunday Programme.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Jonathan Franzen, Kindles and Paperbacks

Reading damages society. That’s another way of saying that e-books damage society. This was the headline in today’s Telegraph online: “Jonathan Franzen: e-books are damaging society”. Franzen isn’t actually quoted as saying this in the article, but what he is quoted as saying is enough to provoke a backlash:

“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it's pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,” said Franzen, who famously cuts off all connection to the internet when he is writing. “I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change.

If you spilt water on your paperback, the ink might run (depending on the quality of the paperback). If it didn’t run, then it could start to fade. If your Kindle was damaged and had to be replaced, you wouldn’t lose your books because they’d be backed up electronically (on your Amazon account, for example). Still, I don’t think it’s helpful to pit e-books, hardbacks and paperbacks against one another, with one format emerging as the winner. They can compliment each other.

Franzen’s suggestion that e-books aren’t for “serious readers” isn’t really thought through. A student on her way to the library might want to read a novel on the bus and e-readers are small, fairly light to carry and take up hardly any space in a bag. For people who don’t have enough room in their home for a library, e-readers are a form of storage space. And there’s no need to lug the Oxford English Dictionary around with you either because the Kindle comes with a copy. If you wanted to know the meaning of a word, you just need to click on it with the cursor and the definition appears in the margin. Kindles are practical.

“Franzen said he took comfort from knowing he will not be here in 50 years’ time to find out if books have become obsolete… ‘Seriously,’ (he said) ‘the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don’t see how you could stand it psychologically.’”

If Franzen felt like getting away from it all on a remote island, he might want to think about slipping a Kindle into his backpack - provided there's electricity on the island, of course.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Lisbeth Salander and Feminism

I’ve come across Nick Cohen’s Guardian piece “Stieg Larsson was an extremist, not a feminist” too late to leave a comment, so I’ll leave one here. This is what made me want to make one – Cohen’s closing paragraph:

I do not go to actors for political advice. But when Rooney Mara said that she did not think that Larsson's Salander was a feminist, she was not the empty-headed celebrity she seemed.

Salander is not Erika Berger; she wouldn’t call herself a feminist. She’s not really keen on labelling herself as anything. One of the most important things to understand about Salander is the likelihood that she has a high functioning form of autism. Blomkvist thinks she has Asperger’s. Her way of relating to herself and everyone and everything around her is affected by her psychological make-up. It’s not enough to quote Eva Gabrielsson saying that Salander’s "entire being represents a resistance, an active resistance to the mechanisms that mean women don't advance in this world and in worst-case scenarios are abused like she was" without mentioning the probablity that she also has Asperger’s. It’s key to a reader’s understanding of how Salander thinks and how Larsson drew her as a character.